Inquisitor D’Arpexia was shown into the Lord High President’s chamber by his aide. She had asked to see him as soon as possible and her rank within the judicial system of Gallifrey and her social standing as the daughter of an Oldblood meant that nobody sought to block her from her purpose.

Kristoph greeted her warmly as an old family friend and one of his wife’s social circle before recognising her position as one who dispensed justice in the Capitol.

“I thought you would want to know what happened in the case of Yolanda Kellmar,” she said when the social chat was over and the aide had brought coffee for them both.

“You had no choice but to sentence her to a custodial term?” Her tight lipped expression gave that much away.

“No choice at all. For the sake of her parents I would have suspended at least part of the sentence, if not all, but her behaviour made it impossible, to say nothing of the crowd in the public gallery.”

“You had a difficult morning, then?” Kristoph knew he was understating the matter even before Inquisitor D’Arpexia sighed deeply.

“I’ve dealt with thieves and murderers who were less trouble than that woman,” she declared. “At least they tend to be sorry for what they’ve done – or at least that they were caught doing it.”

“She is still being stubborn?”

“Positively obdurate,” Valena answered. “And that is only because I can’t think of a stronger adjective to describe her. She claimed that her assault upon the High Council was a legitimate protest against an unjust regime.”

“Omega’s Arm!” Kristoph swore – it was an obscure oath that nobody really understood the meaning of, but expressed his frustration in a manner suitable for the ears of a woman. “Unjust regime! Are our prisons full of men and women who have spoken out against the government, with poets who write incautiously rebellious verse? Do we censor the written or printed word? Do we deny legal counsel to any wrongdoer? Are our penalties unduly harsh?”

He could go on. He knew what an unjust regime was. He had travelled far beyond the Kasterborus system and seen places where the peasant classes truly laboured under a yoke of oppression, where they might be whipped to death for the slightest offence against their ‘betters’ or die in poverty when they could not work and where any attempt to speak out against such injustices were harshly repressed.

Gallifrey was not such a place. There was simply some industrial unrest that he was endeavouring to remedy.

“Where does she get it from?” he asked.

“She does have a point about the working hours and the minimum wage,” Valena conceded. “But her methods of highlighting the problem cannot be allowed. I HAD to send her to prison for a minimum of three months. It would have set a dangerous precedent to do anything else. Besides, she NEEDS to learn to respect authority. She refused to stand as I entered the court. Then she struck down the seal of Rassilon when it was offered to her to take the oath upon.”

Kristoph thought of several oaths of his own that were much ruder than ‘Omega’s Arm’. He was glad he had not attended the court this morning. He had wanted to, because the case interested him, but his advisers had advised against giving the matter of a disorderly conduct charge too much importance in the eyes of those silly enough to admire a woman like Yolanda Kellmar.

“I am sorry for her parents. They are clearly law abiding people. They looked embarrassed to be in court, especially surrounded by people who claimed to be there in support of their daughter, but who made the situation far worse by chants and jeers and generally unruly behaviour. A harsher judge would have put several months more on her sentence just for that. As it is, I was forced to clear the court before resuming. That meant that the Kellmars had to be removed, too. They didn’t even see the trial first hand. I had to send a clerk to tell them what had happened and bring them to see their daughter before she was taken to the penal centre.”

Kristoph sighed. He, too, felt strongly for the hard-working and law-abiding, simple people who hardly even understood their daughter’s political views. He thought he might ask Marion, or perhaps his own mother, to visit them and give some comfort and support.

But there was nothing to be done for Yolanda except hope that the custodial sentence would wake her up to her true responsibilities.

“That’s not all, I’m afraid,” Valena added. “After I had passed the sentence, she stood up and declared her intention to fast until justice was done.”

“Fast… you mean she plans a hunger strike until she is released from the penal centre?”

“No. Her own situation isn’t important to her. She means she will fast until the demands of the seamstresses are met.

“Damn!” Kristoph swore a simple Human oath. “What more does she want of me? I have tried every way I can to get the High Council to accept a Bill guaranteeing a minimum wage and maximum working hours. They won’t have it. I know most of them are just being tight-fisted. The major landowners and those whose family wealth comes from the mines and factories know they will have to foot the bill. But there it is. They won’t budge on the matter.”

“Then it is essentially one Caretaker woman versus the Aristocracy of Gallifrey. Which yields first….”

“If she truly means to drive herself to starvation I fear the well-fed Oldbloods will win,” Kristoph admitted. “But if she dies, we will be the losers in the end. It truly will mean popular revolution on Gallifrey. The Caretakers will not stand for that.”

Often in the past weeks be had asked, to himself, and out loud, where it would all end. Now he knew where it would end, and it was disturbing to say the least.

His only hope was that Yolanda Kellmar’s vow to fast to the death was empty rhetoric and that she would think again once she was in the penal centre, far from her home, from her friends, and from anyone who was in any way inspired by her gestures of defiance.

But the next morning he was informed that Yolanda had refused food and drink since she was taken from the court. She refused to leave her cell and take part in exercise and other activities with the female prisoners.

The next day and the next brought the same news.

“She MUST take water, at least,” Kristoph told Lord Charr, the High Councillor in charge of the penal centres. “A Gallifreyan can survive almost unharmed for nearly a month without food. I know that only too well. The Sarre starved its prisoners to find out the lengths of our endurance. Those they withdrew water from came close to death much sooner.”

“She is female….” Lord Charr pointed out. “Her endurance cannot be equal to one of our best trained and fittest heroes.”

“Quite so. If she will not take liquids voluntarily….”

Kristoph paused. He knew that force feeding of prisoners, almost as much as starving them, was a practice condemned by any number of intergalactic treaties. He knew of tragic consequences in the history of many societies when such things were done even for the best of reasons. He knew VERY well what had happened on Earth when the Suffragettes – some of Yolanda’s soulmates in history – had been force fed in prison. Marion had talked about it at length after supper last night. She had already expressed her feelings about such treatment of a prisoner under the care of the Galllifreyan penal system.

“If she becomes weak, she must be removed to the hospital wing and saline solutions administered intravenously,” he ordered. “But it must be done when she is no longer able to give or refuse consent for herself. Make sure her parents give THEIR permission for such treatment, and make sure it is done kindly and without rough use of her.”

Lord Charr took the Lord High President’s advice sagely, but he expressed an opinion that did not entirely surprise Kristoph. It was the hard line he had heard far too often already.

“We are being too lenient with this troublemaking woman. She should be transferred to a cryogenic cell on Shada. She can fast for ten thousand years that way.”

“And the Capitol will become a wasteland for as many years when the people protest about a simple act of civil disobedience being punished the same way as mass murder and rapine.”

“And treason,” Lord Charr reminded him. “The woman is only this side of such a charge.”

Which was the opinion of most of the Councillors who had been showered with pins by Yolanda and her cohorts. Kristoph was finding it very hard to find sympathetic ears for her personal situation or for the demands of the seamstresses and other Caretakers who were bringing industry to a standstill with their actions.

And day after day Yolanda Kellmar refused both food and drink. Kristoph demanded reports three times a day of her condition. When she collapsed into a coma after two weeks, his instructions were carried out. Her life was saved by saline solution given without her knowledge, but time was running out to find a solution.

On the Saturday of the fourth week of the deepening crisis, the Lord High President of Gallifrey, the most powerful man on the planet, consulted the wisest person he knew…

His mother.

“Mama, what more CAN I do?” he asked desperately as he sat at a shaded table in the riverside garden of the Dower House. “I have sent Marion and Rodan to Liverpool by the portal for the weekend. I have asked Li to keep them there with him until I tell him it is safe to come home. I fear that the flame of revolution may be lit at any moment and those of us perceived to be the oppressors of the masses will suffer greatly.”

His mother poured her own preparation of calming herbal tea and made him drink it before she spoke.

“Most of the people on Gallifrey, of any caste, know nothing of revolution. They really don’t have any such thing in mind. It is only you, who have travelled far and seen terrible things happen among less peaceful people, who can envisage such things.”

“Yes, you may be right, mama,” Kristoph answered her. His mind had turned to Earth, where many revolutions had happened at many different times in the history of its complex and divided people. He thought of the guillotine’s role in French attempts to establish liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism. He thought with a shudder of the Russian Tzar and his family who were cruelly executed, of much that was worse before and since those events.

His mother poured him more tea and reminded him that Gallifrey was already a meritocracy and he was President, not King or Tzar, or any other kind of monarch.

“Presidents have been brought down, too, mama,” he pointed out.

“You must start to look at this a different way. If the High Council will not agree to legislate, then find another group of people who will listen to you.”

“Who?” he asked.

“I think I know,” Aineytta answered. She rang for her butler, Caolin senior, the man who had been butler at Mount Lœng House for as long as Kristoph could remember. She gave him certain instructions which surprised Kristoph but not the butler who always positively inscrutable about everything. The worthy servant went to carry out his mistress’s instructions.

It took a few hours and a busy afternoon for the chauffeurs of the House of de Lœngbærrow and that of the House of D’Alba to organise, but when everyone was assembled around the long table in the substantial formal dining room of the Dower House, it actually looked as if something might be possible.

Many hours after that, Kristoph asked his own chauffeur to take him on a longer journey than back to his own mansion.

It was nearly midnight by the time he reached the penal centre, one of the few buildings that were technically part of the Capitol but situated outside of the dome that protected the city from the environment. The southern side of the fortress was on the edge of the high cliffs called ‘Omega’s Leap’. The sheer rock wall fell almost a thousand feet into the deepest part of the Great Straits that separated the two continental landmasses of Gallifrey. The other sides of the building were contained within physical fences of thirty metre high and a metre thick steel and several layers of anti-transmat shielding.

The limousine passed through the huge electronic gates and into the courtyard. From there the Lord High President was rushed through much of the usual security checks and his escort guards were allowed to keep their weapons.

They were equally swiftly brought to the hospital wing where Kristoph made his guards wait outside despite their protests. One medical technician came with him to the curtained off bed where Yolanda Kellmar was in a semi-coma, partially sedated to prevent her from throwing off the intravenous drip that was keeping her alive.

“Administer essential nutrients,” Kristoph ordered. “And then bring her around to full consciousness.”

That took another two hours to do without causing a serious shock to her dangerously fragile body. Kristoph was waiting as she finally woke, partly through the administration of drugs that forced the consciousness and partly because the essential nutrients mixed into the saline had allowed her body to wake naturally.

“I am going to have the nurse remove the restraints,” Kristoph said to her. “You will be allowed to sit up. I am going to talk to you civilly. I expect you to be civil in return. You WILL have an opportunity to speak. There are details you may wish to have some hand in shaping. But first listen to me without interruption.

Perhaps it was the shock of being alive and awake, but Yolanda didn’t interrupt while Kristoph explained what he had done this afternoon.

“The High Council will NEVER accept legislation that sets terms for workers,” he said. “But that is not the only way to reach a satisfactory agreement. I was reminded by somebody very wise and very clever, that the Lord High President had the power to create Guilds. This afternoon, therefore, I created a Guild of Seamstresses, headed by a very able young woman called Rosanda Caolin. She will be visiting you in the next few days to discuss co-opting you onto the committee. I also created a Guild of Domestic Servants headed by my mother’s butler and Lady D’Alba’s housekeeper, two very able people who I have absolute faith in. I then created a Guild of mineral workers with several subsections covering diamond polishers and cutters, gold miners, and other separate skills within that umbrella. There is also a Guild of Clerks and one of Shopworkers and Kitchen workers. I think that covers almost every possible industry on our planet. If I have missed anybody I will meet with them in the coming weeks.”

“How does that solve anything?” Yolanda asked sceptically.

“To take the Guild of Seamstresses as one example,” Kristoph explained. “They will negotiate with the already established Guild of Fashion and establish the rates of pay for every grade of worker, the hours they should work, overtime and bonus pay for voluntarily working beyond those hours, and general terms of employment such as the circumstances in which a seamstress might be dismissed from her work. The Guild of Fashion members will then have to pass on any increased costs to their customers, the ladies of Gallifrey.”

“The ladies will go to cheaper Fashion Houses,” Yolanda pointed out.

“The ladies will not. There will not be any cheaper Fashion Houses. The Guild of Seamstresses will ensure that no Fashion House employs unaffiliated workers at a lower rate. Besides, all of the top Houses are already on board. They have lost too much business through the strike not to agree, and the Ladies of Gallifrey will pay the extra rather than appear in a gown made by a less well-appointed business.”

Yolanda listened to the plan despite herself and then agreed that it would work.

“What of other industries? Can it be made to work in the diamond cutting workshops?”

“I believe it can be. And if there are problems, I intend to set up a system of arbitration, so that grievances can be aired. This will be headed by Inquisitor D’Arpexia with a committee of Guild committee members. That could include you if you are prepared to be co-operative.”

“I am in jail,” Yolanda pointed out.

“You have served half of your sentence already. I have papers granting you parole as soon as you are medically fit if I have your solemn word – on the Great Seal of Rassilon – that you will not cause any further acts of civil disobedience. The papers will receive my signature as soon as I have your oath. Do we understand each other, Madam Kellmar?”

“We… do,” she answered.

“Good. Let us dispense with the formalities quickly, and then I will be on my way. You can get some ordinary sleep, now, and in the morning, I will make sure your parents are able to visit. They’ve been worried about you.”

“Visitors are only allowed once a week,” Yolanda replied.

“Visitors are allowed when I say so. I AM Lord High President, after all. Remember that, and we will all get on much better in the future.”

Yolanda took his point. He sent for his aide who had the necessary papers to secure her release from the penal centre as soon as it might be contrived, then he left her in peace. As his car passed through the outer gate of the forbidding building he contemplated a visit to Liverpool tomorrow, lunch with his old friend Li and a return with his wife and foster-child to a Gallifrey that was now safe from revolution - at least for the foreseeable future.